It’s 4 a.m. and instead of sleep, powerlessness is on my mind. It’s a concept I’m quite familiar with, being that I’m in recovery: it’s the idea one must embrace to “take the first step.” The idea is, by admitting your powerlessness over whatever behavior or substance you are abusing, you begin on the journey of liberating yourself from the bondage of addiction. It’s a paradox I had a hard time reconciling in my early days of sobering up.
A great line about step one in some of the Alcoholics Anonymous literature plays on a loop as I stare at the ceiling. “Who cares to admit complete defeat. Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness.”
However, the list of things I’m powerless over has grown long. People, places, things, biology, global pandemics, traffic, other drivers. Outside my behavior and my attitude, there is precious little I can control. There is a great serenity that comes in accepting my small circle of influence.
This morning, however, I’m mulling over my powerlessness in relation to government. It’s Monday, November 29 and the Dawn of Omicron, the new Covid-19 variant that was discovered in South Africa. Despite knowing very little about this variant, Europe has closed its borders to flights from ten countries in Africa and today the United States is following suit, restricting travel to and from several African countries.
It’s infuriating that South Africa should be punished for their transparency and data. These countries in the developing world have been at the mercy of the West, well, forever, but they are disastrously affected by every knee-jerk travel ban we put in place due to a new variant. They aren’t getting bailed out. Livelihoods are being lost overnight. Those in extreme poverty are becoming more desperate and open to corruption. It’s happening everywhere.
I’m so broken by how politicized the response to Covid has been that I’m more afraid of how governments will weaponize a new variant than of the Omicron variant itself. This wasn’t always the case. In the early days of the pandemic, when we knew nothing, I was in favor of “two weeks to slow the spread.” I’ve written about how wrong I was and how the distrust that has set in festers and poisons my view of everything. It’s a challenge not to fall down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of conspiracy theory as I search for some semblance of rationality. Everywhere I turn, my brain struggles to reconcile the cognitive dissonance — and I feel like I’m losing my mind.
It never occurred to me how much power our government has until overnight, we gave it an enormous amount. In California during the “mostly peaceful protests,” they gave us a curfew in the middle of a lockdown. Now I look around and see packed airports and flights where you have to wear masks but not if you’re eating peanuts. Petty tyrants will make sure two-year-olds keep their masks on or else kick them off the flight. Yet the stadiums for college football and NFL games are at capacity and people are screaming and yelling maskless. There is no need to prove you’re vaccinated in some places but in others, you need to show a vax card to get in.
This would all be conflicting enough, but our children are still forced to wear masks every single day, all day, to school, for eight hours. They aren’t allowed to talk to each other at lunch; to discourage conversation, schools are putting on videos during their downtime. After a year of being educated on screens (if they were lucky enough to have a screen and wifi) they are now… staring at more screens.
Depending on the state or the school or the teachers’ union, the Covid protocol for when a child tests positive is different everywhere you go. Not to mention that if your family or one child is exposed to someone else who has Covid, now all your kids have to quarantine for a week to ten days, even if they test negative. This happens every single time a child is exposed to Covid or gets it. The kids miss school. Parents have to miss work or use vacation time or find childcare. This insane overreaction over children seems disproportionate to the risks that adults are taking in stadiums, planes and bars.
In the face of Omicron, Joe Biden gave a speech in which he recommended wearing masks indoors. He did not distinguish between vaccinated or unvaccinated people, despite the CDC guidance which recommends wearing a mask indoors if you aren’t vaccinated. This kind of nonsensical inconsistency drives fear, paranoia and confusion.
I can more easily imagine how powerless the developing world feels as the West exerts what looks more and more like medical tyranny on its own shores — and the conspiracy theorists are continuously proven correct. The serenity prayer isn’t exactly working on this one as helplessness sets in. I have no idea what I can change and what I can’t. I have definitely lost the wisdom to know the difference.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s January 2022 World edition.